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Monday, 15 August 2011 08:42

Android vendors lose the Linux rights

Written by Nick Farell


Broke the GPLv2
Most Android vendors have lost their Linux distribution rights and could face shakedown or shutdown, according to a leading patent expert.

Florian Mueller said that  rampant non-compliance with the source code disclosure requirement of the GPLv2, especially but not only in connection with Honeycomb has resulted in a loss of most vendors' right to distribute Linux; He said that this loss of the distribution license is irremediable except through a new license from each and every contributor to the Linux kernel. Without this Android can't run and as a result, there are thousands of people out there who could legally shake down Android device makers, threatening to obtain Apple-style injunctions unless their demands for a new license grant are met.

Mueller said that it might appear unthinkable that things could go so wrong with the distribution license for the very foundation Android was built upon. However two of the most renowned Free Software organizations, the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) and the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), are seeing the problem that way, Recently a number of organisations forced a number of companies (most recently Best Buy, previously some others including Cisco and Verizon) to pay up for licences.

The situation surrounding most Android OEMs could become quite uncomfortable if any Linux copyright holders driven by greed or other motives team up with copyright lawyers  and enforce their rights. There are thousands of Linux kernel contributors besides Linus Torvalds.  In some cases, it would probably be easy to just replace the code they contributed if they seek to enforce their rights, but in other cases, it would certainly take longer than someone's ability to obtain a preliminary injunction somewhere on this planet, Mueller warned.

More here.

 

Nick Farell

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